Do you use controlled crying or controlled comforting? What do these terms even mean?
There’s lots of confusion and judgement around these terms and they are sometimes used incorrectly, interchangeably and often, to refer to what is known as the ‘cry it out’ method. To be clear: the ‘cry it out’ method, though de rigueur in its day, is no longer used (in my view, closing the door on a crying baby and not returning until the next day is no way to teach a baby positive sleep associations).
Controlled comforting is designed to gradually and gently encourage your baby to self-settle. Babies cry – it’s their main form of communication – and learning to understand the different cries of your baby is the key to understanding their needs. Jargon aside, the most important component of changing an aspect of sleep is that you understand your options and that we come up with a realistic and achievable solution that makes sense to you and your family. There is no point in me suggesting a method that you are not comfortable with and cannot implement.
What sort of approaches do you use?
This question is best answered on a case by case basis – it’ll depend on you, your baby and the problem you are trying to fix (do you have a toddler that comes to your bed at night? An infant that wakes up to feed every hour? Are you rocking your baby to sleep and then creeping out the room like a cat burglar?) and so part of the consultation is understanding what you need, and what you are comfortable with.
Generally speaking, the most common methods that you may have heard of include Controlled Comforting, Camping In, Pick Up/Put Down (pioneered by nurse and childcare expert Tracey Hogg) and various patting/soothing techniques. The strategy will depend on the concern we are addressing.
At what age should you start to make a change?
You will know the answer to that question when the time comes. Parents often feel like they are right at the end of their tether; overwhelmed, frustrated, exhausted and confronted with a problem they just can’t fix on their own. At this point, parents may resort to habits of desperation – feeding or rocking their baby to sleep and unplanned co-sleeping, for example. Parents do whatever they have to do to survive a sleep regression or a particularly bad phase, and when these methods become unsustainable, they seek out alternative strategies to help get everyone’s sleeping back on track.
How long can we expect it to take before it works?
If your baby has been feeding to sleep or co-sleeping, for example, then that is their dominant sleep association and it will take a little persuasion to get them accustomed to new sleep cues and associations.
When a situation has reached a crisis point, it is very natural for parents to want to see immediate signs that whatever they are doing is working – this is very common. It’s very easy to feel disheartened when a problem feels insurmountable, or when the solution seems just as hard as the problem. Very often, people resort to the methods they know will work - the ones they are trying to phase out.
Change is hard and solutions often require a bit of work and perseverance. But most families find that there is relief – and sleep! – on the other side.
All sleep skill packages include text/email support to help out with any problems or queries that you may come across in implementing your plan after the initial consultation.
We're desperate for help regarding our baby's sleep, but I really have a lot of trouble letting her cry and find it really upsetting. Is there any way around this?
As parents, you are biologically programmed to respond in this way to your crying child – that’s exactly how nature intended it. But remember that change can be hard for babies, and there will be some crying. How much crying will depend on a few things – how old your baby is, and what you are comfortable with as a parent, for example – and this is why understanding you and your family is an essential part of my practice. Let me assure you, I’m not in the business of forcing parents to do anything they are not comfortable with and there is more than one way to approach any sleep concern.